A shining example

Steelmakers ArcelorMittal have donated R250-million to building schools in underdeveloped areas, the first of which it handed over to the department of basic education last week.

The company told the Mail & Guardian that Meetse-A Bophelo Primary School in Mamelodi, Pretoria, took just 12 months to build, compared to the two years normally required for brick and mortar structures. ArcelorMittal spokesperson Themba Hlengani said the new school cost about R35-million to build, “while brick and mortar schools usually cost double that”.

The school won the “Community Development” category of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction 2010 Steel Awards. Its designers say the building regulates temperature and allows more sunlight into the buildings than conventional buildings.

The school also has sport and recreational facilities as well as a science laboratory and a library.

“The ArcelorMittal Foundation has committed R250-million to build schools in partnership with the department, so this is the first of many. We envision building nine more over the next seven years,” Hlengani said.

“The department will designate an area that needs a proper school structure and we go in there, knock down the old prefab or mud schools and then build. In January we will start construction at Mandela Park in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape.”

The province was in the spotlight recently when seven “mud schools” in the OR Tambo district, took legal action against the Eastern Cape education department, the national government and the district municipality to provide them with proper resources. The schools want the state’s failure to provide adequate school facilities to be declared unconstitutional.

Provincial authorities had previously indicated that the backlog was due to a lack of funds. The case is pending.

“The cost of each school will depend on the area and the facilities already available, but the beauty of the project is that the steel structures can be produced in kit form and assembled in the targeted communities,” said Hlengani.


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